When Zion Williamson was chosen with the top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans, he was met with high expectations, especially after being such a special player at Duke University.
In 85 games so far in his pro career, he has put up promising numbers of 25.7 points a game while shooting an incredible 60.4 percent from the field and an even higher percentage inside of the paint.
However, he has seemingly been injured more often than he has taken part in game action, and many have soured on his potential.
Williamson has played nary a game this season, and he will be entering the final year on his rookie contract.
The Pelicans have also been a poor team during Williamson’s career so far, and they haven’t even come close to making the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.
Although they will be in this year’s play-in tournament, they have ultimately made very little progress, if any, since 2019.
Would it be best for all parties if Williamson left the Big Easy after next season?
When Healthy, Zion Is A Beast
When Williamson has been able to play, he has been a force, and opposing teams have had few if any, answers for him.
He may lack a reliable perimeter jumper, but when he gets into the paint, he is insanely efficient.
Zion Williamson has the most points in the paint per game (19.5) since Shaq in 2003 (19.6)
He’s only 20 years old 🤯 pic.twitter.com/wf0jWPWnLN
— Pelicans Nation (@PelsNationCP) June 24, 2021
Fouling him to prevent layups and dunks doesn’t seem to do a ton of good, as he shot 69.8 percent from the free-throw line last season, which was up from 64.0 percent in his rookie year.
His ability to handle the ball and get his own shot without the help of teammates have caused some observers to compare him to a taller and less nimble version of Charles Barkley.
Granted, Williamson has disappointed some with his rebounding (he’s averaging just 7.0 rebounds per game in his career), and his defense has lots of room for improvement.
But overall, he is a force to be reckoned with.
The Pelicans Are Going Nowhere Fast
But both will be making north of $30 million starting next season.
According to spotrac.com, the Pelicans are “hard-capped,” which will make it very hard for them to give Williamson the contract he deserves.
Given his injury history, it’s a fair question as to whether it would be worth it for them to pay him and perhaps jettison some of their other main players, including possibly Ingram and/or McCollum, in order to afford Williamson.
Williamson Should Consider Leaving
For the past few years, there have been whispers that the former Duke star hasn’t been happy playing in a small town such as New Orleans and that he’d prefer to be in a big market.
Zion Williamson went 14-14 in the paint tonight.
The only player with more makes without a miss in the paint in a game over the last 25 seasons is Hakeem Olajuwon (15) in 1998. pic.twitter.com/PNXI8t6Np8
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 13, 2021
New York Knicks fans were pining for him prior to the 2019 draft lottery, and perhaps Williamson would be a good fit with the Knicks if they were to somehow clear enough cap space to get him.
If he’d be willing to play in a mid-sized market, how about the Dallas Mavericks and pairing up with Luka Doncic?
Or even the Memphis Grizzlies to give them some muscle as a complement to Ja Morant‘s aerial abilities?
Over the years, the Pelicans haven’t shown they know how to build a winner.
Perhaps that’s why another uber-talented big man in Anthony Davis forced his way out a few years ago.